Two-time Olympic figure skating competitor, openly gay Johnny Weir is urging people to not boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February.
Activists from Russia and elsewhere have called for a complete boycott of the games to protest the Russian government's ongoing anti-gay persecution.
"The fact that Russia is arresting my people, and openly hating a minority and violating human rights all over the place is heartbreaking and a travesty of international proportions. I respect the LGBT community full heartedly, but I implore the world not to boycott the Olympic Games because of Russia's stance on LGBT rights or lack thereof," writes Weir in his column published July 25 in the Falls Church News-Press.
"I beg the gay athletes not to forget their missions and fight for a chance to dazzle the world. Olympics are history, and they do not represent their host, they represent the world entire," writes Weir. "People make their own futures, and should a government or sponsor steal that future, whether it be a Russian government or American government, it is, as an athlete, the death and total demolition of a lifetime of work. Support the athletes."
Weir is a three-time US men's figure skating champion who competed for the United States in the 2006 Winter games in Torino, Italy and again in the 2010 games in Vancouver, Canada.
Despite the risks involved with being openly gay in Russia, Weir says he intends to compete in the February games if he qualifies.
"There isn't a police officer or a government that, should I qualify, could keep me from competing at the Olympics," says Weir.
Blake Skjellerup, a gay speed skater from New Zealand, agrees.
“I’m not in favour of a boycott at all,” Skjellerup told Daily Xtra. “I think visibility is the best possible solution, as opposed to hiding away and not attending.”
Skjellerup says he will be wearing a rainbow pin to the Sochi Olympic games in 2014, and “If that gets me in trouble, then so be it.”
Russia’s increasingly hostile anti-gay crackdown has some questioning whether the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should have awarded it the Olympics at all.
Earlier this month, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.”
From our archives —
For more on Johnny Weir, here's a 2010 video from our archives of Larry King asking Weir "how does it feel to be so fierce."
Weir was also in the news that year when Quebec sports broadcasters suggested Weir should undergo gender testing and compete in women's events. Weir responded in this video.